Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Every so often I like to go through one of the unpacked boxes I have stacked in a closet. The one I chose yesterday had packs of old receipts, several sweaters, and a rusted spatula. It was that kind of a box. At the bottom was a typewritten manuscript.
Years ago, when a friend and I were bored at work, we wrote a 300-page Raymond Chandler parody. I’d write a page or two, then he’d write a page, and on and on. Since I lost touch with Gordon ages ago, I’ll say the best pages are mine. And there are precious few of those.
Flipping through it, I noticed most of the sustained hilarity has evaporated over time. Just as a sample:
The night air was as cold as a puppy’s nose. It was then Jonathan saw the sliding door was open, and open wide. As wide as the disparity between tap shoes and ballet slippers.
“Ma’am?” the woman in white greeted her.
“I’m here to see McPherson.”
“Your trouble ma’am, molar, front, bicuspid?”
“Just tell him,” Patsy lifted her diaphanous black veil, “Everything aches.”
She felt Blackie Mcpherson’s eyes lock on her ankles, sweep up to her thighs, linger on her shoulders, and come to rest on her incisors.
“ I was sorry to hear about your father,” he purred. “The work I did on his lower plate is one of the hallmarks of my career. A fine man with outstanding gums.”
I can and have read Chandler over and over. But every film adaptation save one has been a major disappointment. And the best is no longer in circulation – 1975’s Farewell My Lovely. Here’s the only clear clip I could find:
Farewell My Lovely
The alcoholic dancehall floozie was played by the brilliant Sylvia Miles. And if we could watch the whole scene, she would pat the bottle of rye Marlow brought as a bribe and say, “This goes down easy with me.”
What’s right about this film is everything – cinematography, music, palette, casting, dialogue. But most of all, Robert Mitchum; the laconic, ironic delivery, and his once beautiful face melting away like candlewax before our eyes. And they were so right to shoot the noir in color. Nothing looks as sinister as dying lawn, bungalow dry rot, and a relentless sun.